Like most little girls, growing up, I dreamed of the man I would marry. I imagined what he would look like, where he would be from, what he would like to do for fun, what sports he would play, what his family would be like, and how we would meet.
Much like I currently have for our future home, I had my “must-have” list for my future husband, and come to think of it, any guy I dated.
In the span of years that passed between my first viewing of Cinderella and the time I was allowed to date boys, I had dreamed up every aspect of the man I would someday call my own. I sat out to find my soulmate with my St. Therese novena clutched tightly in one hand and my must-have list clutched tightly in the other.
And then I met him.
I found him.
I knew him.
And he blew my list out of the water.
When I threw my heart into David, I threw my list out the window. When I began to discover who he was, I discovered that my list fell short. When I fell in love with David, I fell out of love with my imaginary man.
You see, David didn’t match up perfectly with my must-have list.
Did he meet a lot of the big ones like love for the Lord, Faith, openness to family, financial prudence, and enjoyment of fun and adventure? Absolutely.
But when we got down to the nitty gritty details, he was different than I’d imagined. His background was different, his hobbies were different, his skill set was different, his dreams were different.
My David was in conflict with my list, and I had a choice to make. I could either set aside my relationship with David because he didn’t measure up to what I thought was my dream guy; or I could set my list aside and jump joyfully into the arms of this marvelous man God had for me.
PTL, I chose the latter.
And I haven’t looked back once.
In my conversations with women over the years, I find that many of us girls have to face this issue, the issue of our must-have lists against the guy we’re dating/interested in. I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with women who had met a guy they really liked, and who liked them back, but who were hesitant about pursuing the relationship further because of “the list”. These women had boyfriends who were faithful, funny, smart, encouraging, adventurous, and totally smitten with them. BUT! He failed to meet one or some of their must-haves; he didn’t like salsa dancing, he didn’t have brothers, he hadn’t been to Europe, he hadn’t read C.S. Lewis, he didn’t love the same kind of music.
And these women found themselves in the midst of the choice.
They could either cling unwaveringly to their list, or they could let go and embrace the man they really liked, the man who measured up to God’s list.
Unfortunately, I watched some of these ladies let go of men who they nearly loved, and who loved them back, because they refused to let go of the little details of the list they made when they were six years old. Their insistence upon “not settling” cost them the mind-blowing, indecipherable plans of the Almighty and Ever-Spoiling Lord.
But the ones who didn’t? The ones who jumped joyfully into the arms of the marvelous man God had for them? They didn’t look back once. They realized the finiteness of their “must-have” list and the infinite creativity and providence of the Father.
So my advice to the beautiful ladies of the world who are choosing between their boyfriends and their lists? Ditch the list. Not the entire thing, of course. Use your brain and make sure that you are compatible with the guy you’re dating. Make sure you agree on the big issues, the ones that matter most to you both. Make sure you actually like the guy and find him attractive and have a good time with him. Make sure you can see your life with him. But those tiny details you get hung up on? Let them go. If the only thing stopping you from being all-in with a guy you really like is the fact that he doesn’t like Mexican food, let the list go.
And please don’t misunderstand me. My use of “change” in this context does not include the steady personal and spiritual growth that can and should come from a loving relationship. We are given t one another to help soften the edges, polish the pearl, and to help form each other into saints. We should be helping one another become who the Lord calls us to be, we should be striving to become better versions of ourselves … but we still must be allowed to be ourselves.
Stop trying to change your boyfriend. Stop trying to make him fit into the mold of your must-have list. Stop trying to make him into someone he’s not (and don’t let him make you into someone you’re not). Dave and I tried that. It didn’t work. It broke us up for a while. It was painful and messy and tragic until Jesus intervened, kicked us both in the pants, and helped us realize how stupid and ungrateful we were being for wasting such a gift of love.
Let the list go. Stop trying to change him. If you love him, love all of him. And he will love you back more fiercely than your list ever will.